COVID-19: How To Do Church Business and Communicate While Staying At Home
How do we broadcast church online? What's the best way to communicate with our congregations? How can we do normal church business when the church staff is working from home?
These are urgent questions that I'm going to tackle today.
This is a fairly comprehensive post today. Feel free to jump to the section which you need help with first. Let's get started...
Communication With The Congregation
For worship services and other one-way communication, Facebook Live is probably the easiest and cheapest option. But there are many things to keep in mind for good production quality. Here’s a website with excellent resources for virtual communication.
COVID-19 Resources and Information (ncbaptist.org)
Communication is more important now than ever. It’s probably not possible to overcommunicate with your congregation right now. Use FB Live, post video, email all, email individuals, text, and call individuals to check in. They need to hear from you.
Small Group Communication
Small group communication is vital to individual and community growth. With a multitude of free and easy options there is no reason to let it dry up at this time.
Smallgroups.com shared a really great chart comparing some of the platforms available to use:
My small group is using Zoom for regular meetings and it’s been great.
I also recommend creating a Facebook Group. It’s a great, private place to communicate in writing with the members of your small group.
Suddenly, you’re working from home...and so is your team of office staff and other pastors. What do you do now? How is this going to work? How are you going to get things done? How are you going to stay on the same page?
Virtual business is in my wheelhouse. Snapbooks has been completely virtual for several years now. I have personally and extensively used or researched much of the following options. These tools and practices will help you get the business of church done during this time of social distancing. Perhaps you’ll find some tools that will improve the office when life returns to normal in a few months.
I will briefly touch on security but I am, by no means, an IT security expert. Please consult an actual expert for advice on this subject.
Here’s a good video on the subject from which I gleaned most of this information:
Navigating Technology In The Midst of Coronavirus: Cybersecurity (Church Law and Tax)
You should require home computers to have the same antivirus software installed as the computers in the church.
Educate staff on general safe computer practices like:
Be cautious of every click
Don’t open emails from people you don’t know and trust
Use a training program like Knowbe4 for virtual cybersecurity education (use code MBS for discount)
Install a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for an extra layer of security since you are working across public networks. Examples include ExpressVPN, Norton Secure VPN, Private Internet Access, and many more.
Remote Desktop Software
Remote desktop software allows you to use your office desktop from on offsite device. This means you can use your home computer or laptop to see and control the computer on your church desktop as if you were there using it.
There can be limitations and communication hiccups. If you print a document, it will go to the office printer, not your home. VPN (Virtual Private Network) is often recommended by industry experts. Keep in mind, VPNs may cause interruptions in remote desktop software.
But this is probably the easiest way to transition to working from home right away.
Here’s a couple of good options:
Communication within your team is vital to cohesiveness and productivity. It’s also very different from outward communication with your congregation. FB Live is probably a bad way to meet with your team due its limitations and constraints. It’s more of a one-way street.
Conference calls are great if you can get everyone on at the same time.
Another option is team communication software. You can chat, email, and share documents and pictures with each other in one stream or multiple streams at everyone’s pace and availability.
A few examples include:
It’s time for your church to move to the cloud. Cloud software easily outmatches their desktop equivalent.
Some of the benefits are:
Automatic software updates (you’ll always have the latest version)
All documents and data are automatically backed up
Documents can be shared and collaborated on in real time
The two major players are Microsoft Office 365 and Google Suite. They have many of the same characteristics and abilities. They are also similarly priced. I use Google Suite but both are very popular.
I will point out that if you choose to use one of these you may want to also use the corresponding team communication (Microsoft Teams or Google Meet/Chat).
If you have a two-signature approval process, that’s going to be tough to deal with during this time.
It may be time to look at an alternative process which is secure and more convenient. Snapbooks uses an online (cloud-based) bill approval and payment system for all accounts payable called Bill.com.
Bill.com is a total bill management application. You can set multiple approval rules and all approvals and payments are performed electronically. Users simply log in and click a few buttons to approve and then pay for each bill.
Payments are sent electronically (by ACH) or by mail (paper check).
It has many more advantages:
Better internal controls
Fraud risk reduction
Faster and more efficient
You can also use these for internal reimbursements. But if you have a larger church, you may want to look at Expensify.com for reimbursements. It’s inexpensive, robust, and easy to use.
Churches still doing payroll manually and issuing paper checks are really struggling with the current situation.
If you’ve been considering changing, now may be a great time to make the switch to a third party provider. If you haven’t considered it, you probably should.
Third party payroll providers are inexpensive, convenient, accurate, and more likely to follow the changes in law closely.
They will file and pay taxes automatically so you never have to worry about missing a payment.
Direct deposit is included with almost all platforms.
There are dozens of options out there. We use one of the fastest growing providers, called Gusto.com and have been very happy with them. The payroll reports sync automatically with our accounting software.
Employee Time Tracking
While staff is working from home, you may want to look at a new process for timekeeping. Again, there are some excellent apps which can be very useful and connect directly to your payroll software.
Bookkeeping and accounting may be a bit further down your COVID-19 response list of things to do. But I wanted to address it as part of an overall recovery plan moving forward. This is an opportunity to make your church run more efficiently, likely saving time and money.
While figuring out how to run payroll and pay bills is more urgent during this time, most of the ideas I have brought forward are cloud-based online applications. One of the greatest benefits of these products is that they can automatically sync to certain accounting platforms. This eliminates double entry, reducing the time required to process the bookkeeping and the number of errors.
There are numerous other benefits to moving your accounting/bookkeeping to the cloud:
They have unlimited user access.
They are internet browser-based. So you can log on from any computer with internet.
The data is stored on remote servers and automatically backed up.
They never need updating because you are always using the latest version.
They never need upgrading because you are always using the latest version.
I posted a blog about the subject and discussed a few of the cloud accounting platforms in detail.
Evaluating Cloud Accounting Platforms (Snapbooks blog)
Tomorrow's topic: Maximizing Income During the Pandemic